Twitter in the (Art) Library

As I’m sure we’ve all heard, Twitter is The Next Big Thing. This micro-blogging site allows you to post 140-charater messages to your “followers” and in turn follow the “tweets” of others.

The New York Times has published several great pieces about Twitter in the last few weeks:

After reading all that, I’m sure you’re asking how this shiny new Web 2.0 tool could become a Library 2.0 tool. Here are a few examples of twittering libraries:

So what do you think? What can art, architecture, and visual resources libraries do with Twitter that perhaps hasn’t been possible before? How does tweeting support our basic mission(s)? Know of a particularly good example of libraries or librarians using Twitter? Let’s talk about it (and more) in the comments below.


  1. I’ll start the discussion off with a question I’ve been thinking about lately. Can Twitter be more than a promotional, marketing, or outreach tool for libraries? (And does it need to be?)

    Given the character limit, and the tendency of things to disappear when they fall off the top of the pile, I’m skeptical about Twitter’s use as a method of say answering reference questions. But I do see real potential for it as a way to push small bites of content to users, particularly content we haven’t been able to promote/disseminate before.

    Here’s an example…

    At the University of Michigan (where I currently work), we have significant erotica collections in our special collections facilities. At present, we haven’t been promoting these collections to users. But what if we started a twitter feed of new acquisitions, citations of relevant research, upcoming campus events about sexuality/gender/etc, or other material. Could that be a way to market these materials (and their potential value) to users? (And who wouldn’t love a “porn in the art library” Twitter feed?)

  2. For a library, I really see twitter’s potential as promo/awareness tool. As a librarian, I see it as a resource discovery and a potential trusted network tool.

    Like Meredith, I’m skeptical of twitter’s ephemeral qualities (See Jenny Levine’s Twittephemeraliness).

    It would be great if we could automate tweets by associating it into our ILS. If an ILS can utilize SMS, then certainly that SMS could be broadcast as a tweet. I haven’t seen it done, but I’m sure it’s possible. Here’s an example of how a baker uses an automated twitter system to tell patrons when the latest creation has been taken out of the oven.

  3. I’ve started a Twitter account for my library at UVA. You can find us @Uvaartslib on Twitter. Twitter works well for us on many levels: It’s not time consuming, Several other offices at UVA use Twitter, We connect well with the broader community of Charlottesville, and we know our user group and can target appropriate news/info to them. We don’t have a *huge* number of students following us, but for the time it takes us to send out 140 characters of news, it’s worth the investment/experiment. We tweet library news, occasional new books, general news of interest to arts/architecture folks, publicity about library services, and whatever else comes up that seems “tweetable”. We’re followed not only by our users, but by UVA’s newspaper, Charlottesville news outlets, local (and national) arts organizations, authors, artists, publishers, and database vendors.

    We don’t (yet) answer questions through Twitter, just because no one has asked any. But we certainly would. Mostly, I think that it gives us an outlet to push out news that is important to Fine Arts Library folks, but not “big” enough to make it to the general Library system news outlets. It’s one more way we relate on a pretty personal level with our local users.

    If it could be done without copyright issues, I’d love to see a Twitter feed of the newest images in our digital collections…

  4. These are all great suggestions! I currently work at Florida State University and I have been researching the possibility of using Twitter for marketing/promotion and as a quick, informal way to communicate with faculty and students. The current issue of Computers in the Library (May 2009) has an article by Sarah Milstein about Twitter and libraries. She provides lots of links to libraries that are using Twitter. I’m just wondering how to encourage people (especially faculty) to follow the library. What’s the best way to advertise this service?

    By the way, any thoughts on Twitter’s new policy to hide tweets from people you’re not following?

  5. It is obvious that Twitter has become one of the emergent new social networking tools. I agree with the other posts regarding using Twitter to increase awareness of library programs, collections and new resources. Our mission is to support the educational and research endeavors of the institution we serve, and it is imperative to keep this in mind in all academic library pursuits.

    I think one of the biggest questions that remains to be asked, is whether Twitter is a trend or a fad. Does it have staying power? MySpace has decreased significantly in popularity over the last several years. I do believe retaining relevancy in an increasingly technological world means we need to be cognizant of the possibilities technology can afford us, while at the same time being critical of the time and effort spent on these technologies.

  6. To Jessica’s point, users are dynamic which calls for organizations to be dynamic regarding outreach, marketing, etc. I think in these areas, libraries should devote time, energy, & funds to meeting the users where they are.

    However, there is an interesting contrast with libraries. On the one hand, our records need to be controlled, to be stable at a base level. On the other hand, information can overlay this foundation (e.g. OPACs that allow user-driven tagging, comments, etc.). This allows our information systems to be more dynamic.

    Regarding new communication technologies (I’m tired of the Web 2.0 moniker),
    there is an interesting post by Meredith Farkas on the dangers of online apps that do not give owners the power to keep or export content/data locally.

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